Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, announced in a personal post on the platform that President Donald Trump’s account would be indefinitely blocked through at least the next two weeks.
Zuckerberg stated that the company’s decision to restrict Trump’s access to his Facebook and Instagram accounts was due to his inciting a mob of loyalists on Wednesday, which resulted in an armed standoff at the Capitol building, disrupting Congress as it attempted to certify the results of the Electoral College.
“The shocking events of the last 24 hours clearly demonstrate that President Donald Trump intends to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor, Joe Biden,” Zuckerberg wrote.
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The Facebook CEO also said that Trump’s use of Facebook “to condone rather than condemn the actions” of his loyalists to storm the Capitol “disturbed” people in the U.S. as well as globally. He added that the site removed his recent posts “because we judged that their effect — and likely their intent — would be to provoke further violence.”
Zuckerberg attempted to justify why Facebook had kept Trump on the site in the past, saying it was done in order to allow the public to “access [his] political speech, even controversial speech.”
“But the current context is now fundamentally different,” Zuckerberg explained, “involving use of our platform to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government.”
He added that the “risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great.” Trump will be blocked from using the site for an indefinite amount of time, Zuckerberg wrote, and at least through the time Biden is inaugurated on January 20.
Many have condemned Trump’s rhetoric throughout the past several months, in which he has unduly and without proof described his election loss as “stolen” or fraudulent, as incendiary — indeed, the president’s words on Wednesday appeared to give specific direction for his loyalists to “walk down to the Capitol” while Congress was meeting to certify the results of the Electoral College.
“We are going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women, and we are probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them — because you will never take back our country with weakness,” Trump said to his base of supporters outside of the White House, shortly before they stormed the Capitol.
The Capitol building itself was placed on lockdown as a result of Trump’s mob of loyalists descending upon and forcing their way into it, and into the chambers of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Weapons appeared to have been drawn by some of the president’s loyalists, according to photographs of the events as they happened.
Trump loyalists also entered the offices of several lawmakers, sitting in their chairs, vandalizing their belongings, and stealing personal items.
Remonstrations have been loudest among Democratic lawmakers, but even some Republicans have voiced their anger at Trump’s supporters, and toward the president himself.
“What happened here today was an insurrection incited by the President of the United States,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said on the Senate floor on Wednesday.
Several Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-California) have called for the president’s removal from office. On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) also called for Vice President Mike Pence to invoke section four of the 25th Amendment, which allows the vice president and the cabinet to begin proceedings to remove the president from power.
Facebook has been severely criticized over the last four years for helping Trump and far right promulgate false, deceptive and dangerous propaganda. “Facebook’s tools have allowed Trump’s bogus and dangerous claims of election impropriety and voter fraud to go viral,” Carmen Scurato, a senior policy counsel at the digital rights group Free Press, explained in a column for Truthout in November.
“In the absence of ongoing enforcement, bad actors will weaponize Facebook at ever greater rates to sow division and hate, destabilize our democracy, disenfranchise voters and poison our information ecosystem,” Scurato wrote.
Shining a light on the inner workings of Facebook would go far toward fixing many of the platform’s problems. It’s time for Facebook to finally put the health of people and our democracy over profits.